Big Kiss: One Actor's Desperate Attempt to Claw His Way to the Top
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--Christopher Buckley, author of Little Green Men
Henry Alford was a well-adjusted, critically acclaimed author living quietly in New York City.
Then he decided to become an actor.
In the course of this memoir, Alford is rejected by directors, ignored by casting people, abused by a sadistic acting teacher, and educated in the finer points of Shakespearean thespianism at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in England, where he fails to convince the Queen to attend his final performance.
Along the way, Alford auditions for the role of Wil-bur the Pig in Charlotte's Web, triumphs as an extra in Godzilla, and takes his sixty-nine-year-old bird-watching, chain-smoking mother to improvisational-comedy camp. Hoping to broaden his range, he takes a job with a phone-sex business, where he assays many roles on a popular party line.
Finally, Alford finds happiness and celebrity as the cohost of VH1's hit series Rock of Ages, on which he quizzes elderly Italian women, among others, about videos by heavy-metal groups.
Original, absurd, and written with true comic grace, Big Kiss captures in a new and unforgettable way the experience of being a performer.
Rezension: On the cover of his memoir, Henry Alford looks like a guileless galoot, a handsome hayseed, but beware! He is in fact a trained humorist from Spy and The New Yorker, as savvy as a charmer of snakes. His illuminatingly humiliating odyssey as an aspiring actor mines a comedy vein akin to that of David Sedaris or Joe Queenan, with a bit of George Plimpton's participatory reportage. First, Alford tries to win fame without achievement by talking Manhattan deli owners into posting his glossy next to photos of Telly Savalas and Kaye Ballard. Despite Alford's offer to write "Big kiss!" on it with his autograph, it's mostly no sale. So he studies Shakespeare at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, soap opera at the Weist-Barron School of Television, improv comedy with the guy who trained Nichols and May. Despite Alford's hard-won ability to play "Winona Ryder pretending to be Wynonna Judd" and "an actress who is unsure if she is Karen Allen or Brooke Adams and thus has changed her name to Karen Adams," success arrives slow as sludge. He blows his chance to be on the first U.S. Olympic ballroom dance team ("my floor craft was uneven, and I was chesty through my topline"). He flops as a salesman of Thierry Mugler's chocolate-based perfume at Saks and as a TCR (telecommunications representative) at a phone-sex firm. His performances as an extra in Godzilla and on Bobcat Goldthwait's Big Ass Show earn no Oscars (though he does win a $199 ottoman). At last, he scores a gig on VH1, screening rock videos for old folks and Hells Angels to comic effect. He follows his big-deal Hollywood agent boyfriend, Jess, to L.A., and his book becomes a straightforward memoir.
When it's not overtly funny (the "sadopedagogy" of his cruel New York acting coach is authentically ghastly), Alford's autobiography is ever alert, witty, and penned in the nimblest prose. --Tim Appelo
Titel: Big Kiss: One Actor's Desperate Attempt to ...
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